You see us
as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.
Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at seven o’clock this morning.
We were brainwashed…
Here’s an exercise: try explaining what the words jock, nerd, dork and geek mean to your children without resorting to stereotypes.
A commute on the train the other day found my husband and I attempting to define these words to our curious children without falling back on”kids that like science and math” or “kids that play sports to the point of exclusivity” or “kids that aren’t ‘cool‘.” Because, well, we want our kids to like science and math and play sports and yes, even think of themselves as cool, whatever their definition of cool happens to be. And though labels such as geek and nerd have enjoyed a kind of reverse-cool renaissance, semantics are tough to explain to an eight year old. So we sat there, struggling. And we ended up giving them the plot of a string of John Hughes movies as examples.
I was a teenager at the time John Hughes was making movies about teenagers. And just as I’m sure the Boomer generation related to Beach Blanket Bingo and longed for Annete Funnicello’s beehive, Mr. Hughes made movies which captured what it felt like to be a teenager in the 80s the way no one else did. The Breakfast Club. Sixteen Candles. Pretty in Pink. Some Kind of Wonderful. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I don’t know too many folk that fall within the parameters of Gen X that don’t regularly quote his movies. Demented and sad? But true. Hughes’s movies were ultimately about finding similarities in differences. But that’s what most teenagers want, to know that they are just like everyone else. So you want the slightly odd girl with the red hair and freckles to snag the dreamy hunk. You want the poor girl with the sensitive father to make sure Mr. Richie Rich knows he is going to be held accountable for his actions. You even want Ducky, in all his seemingly closeted homosexuality, to find someone to go to prom with. You want to know you are not alone, that the chasm sized differences that seem insurmountable really aren’t that wide. All it takes is a little leap of faith.
I didn’t go to my own prom, instead I went to an AC/DC concert. Instead of wearing a Jessica Mclintok dress and puking my guts up after too many shots of peppermint schnapps, I shook it all night long with Angus Young. Don’t be fooled. The reason I didn’t go to my prom was because no one asked me to go to the prom. As far as plot and drama go, my story has infinitely more possibilities. But that’s now, two decades later. But at the time, remember, I was 17. I wanted someone to ask me. Alas I had emo-goth hair and I was in the National Honor Society and I listened to Love and Rockets and Siouxsie (and AC/DC) and was about the furthest thing from a prom court candidate as you could get. Still, it would have been nice to have had the choice.
Despite being prom-deprived, looking back at high school, I have reasonably fond memories. Sure, there was the odd comment about my hairstyle choices, but overall, I don’t remember it being terrible. One of my (still) best friends was a cheerleader. Before my hair got too weird, I went out with the quarterback for a while. And while my town wasn’t as segregated into rich and poor, right side of the tracks and wrong as in the movies, the cliques were present and accounted for. The jocks. The geeks. The burn-outs. Perhaps my obvious decisions to look different, to listen to different music, to have different plans and different dreams–perhaps those things made my time easier in a way. I made it pretty obvious what I thought by the way I looked. It was a conscious choice. I wasn’t trying to fit it, I was trying to stand out. My opinions and my choices were as obvious as if they were written in permanent marker on my book covers.
It’s also possible I am simply revisiting history through the soft focus of time.
Life today seems about as far removed from my own day as High School Musical is from Sixteen Candles. I won’t pretend to even begin to understand what teenage life is like today. I can’t imagine what it is like to have every move, every thought, every bad hair day and questionable outfit tweeted and instagramed and Face Booked for the world to see. It’s instantaneous, it’s gratuitous, it’s widespread. Today every thought is made public, every move is documented with photographic evidence, every rumor magnified a thousand fold by the existence of cyber-space. And it’s there forever. 4-eva. 2 good 2 B 4gotten. When you are 14 or 15 or 16, you think you’ll never get over it, but you do. But when it’s out there for the world to see, it takes a lot longer for everyone else to forget.
I turned out okay, just like Molly Ringwald did . I even got the dreamy guy and my own version of 2.5 kids and the picket fence (which is pretty far removed from 2.5 kids and a picket fence, but it’s my version and that’s what counts). I want my own children to feel confident in what they enjoy, whether it be chess, drama club, soccer, golf, skateboarding or ballet. I want them to wear what they like and not worry about someone snapping a picture of it on their iPhone and broadcasting it to the world with a snarky caption. But I don’t know if that is possible anymore. I want them to feel confident in their geeky, nerdy, jock-y selves if that’s the path they choose. Because they are my kids though, I’m sure they will rebel by announcing they are joining the Young Republicans Club.
Sometimes I wish it could be as easy for them as it was in a John Hughes film. That a Saturday morning in detention would convince them that they are all in it together, that you can’t judge someone by what they wear or what music they listen or what sports they play or clubs they belong to. Because we are all made up of more than that. No one should be defined by a moment, an outfit, a hairstyle.
I hope my children have their own Breakfast Club moments. The ones that make growing up even a little easier.
12 Comments Add yours
Awww….great piece. I loved those movies, too. Glad you got your dream guy and 2.5 kids… 😀
Thank you. It usually works out in the end, doesn’t it. Just like in the movies ;-).
Always. That’s why I get up every day. Just to get a little closer to the big plot twist… 🙂
Reblogged this on Wine and Cheese (doodles) and commented:
Another personal favorite to keep the embers stoked while I get settled and prepare for some new material. Perhaps because I watched Pitch Perfect recently, perhaps a “Where are they Now” article about the 16 Candles actors I came across, perhaps my teenager-y resemblance to Molly Ringwald, or perhaps my slight obsession with Jake Ryan. I thought this one deserved a second chance. I hope you enjoy. And, if you were born in the wrong decade/generation and don’t know the movies, do yourself a favor and go rent them. P.S. I’ve been a brain, a princess, and a basket case at various points of my life–if only I were good at sports. I draw the line at criminal though….
Thank God I grew up in the 70’s! I can not even imagine the pain and stupidity of my teen years being posted all over the internet, especially since I was a single teen Mom.
There is a meme going around the internet at the moment about how the best thing about being in your 40s is the stupid stuff we did was done in a time when you didn’t have to worry about it getting posted all over the internet. And I laugh every time I see it because it’s so true!
You certainly get my vote for anti-Prom Queen simply by virtue of having gone to an AC/DC concert instead of the prom. That’s so cool. Now if it had been Duran Duran, let’s just say that I wouldn’t be quite so impressed. The amazing thing, for me, however, regarding watching John Hughes films while growing up was that they made me feel nostalgic about my teenage years, even at a time when I was still actually a teenager?! Does that sentence make any sense? Oh, well, the term for my experience, I believe, is called anticipatory nostalgia, and John Hughes brought it on big time. Anyway, if you looked like Molly Ringwald, I sorta looked like Emilio Estevez. I wonder if we can get ourselves a set of Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy and Anthony Michael Hall- lookalikes, so as to film a Breakfast Club II sequel? The Morning After Club, 28 years later? 🙂
Well, I was a huge Duran Duran fan as well. Who would have thought the two could go hand in hand, huh? I knew Ally Sheedy in the early 90s, she was lovely, but not totally unlike her Breakfast club character. Anticipatory nostalgia, huh? I like that. I can still watch those movies, and my husband and I regularly quote them to our kids (who by default think we are both basket cases…). If you find us a Judd and and Anthony Michael Hall, let me know, maybe we can make something work. 🙂
Hey, you can’t mention knowing Ally Sheedy and then not divulge all?! Well, not unless you signed some kind of non-disclosure statement, I guess…
I’m not even sure I’d remember signing anything at this point in my old age… I used to work with her daughter and we became friendly. She was very nice and thoughtful, at the same time had some funky little quirks which she was aware of but made me realize that it wasn’t surprising that John Hughes cast her as “The Basket Case”-she played it well!
Did you ever see the film Garden State? When I did, I thought it was the Breakfast Club of the next generation. We’re in the same class; I remember seeing that movie in a theater with a date and it was like so cutting edge, I didn’t even realize it. Sometimes life is like that, too good to be true. Like Love and Rockets, proving they didn’t need Peter Murphy…were even better, without.
I did and I enjoyed it, but as an outsider looking in. Oddly some of the films that have come out in the last few years have resonated with me more (perhaps because I now have a ‘tween’ myself) including The Way, Way Back which I just watched last night. I know that every generation feels like it’s own films and movies are better than those that surround them, but I think in our case, we are justified. I love the idea of life being too good to be true. It shall be my mantra today.